Offbeat Magazine HISB EP Review

original author: By David Kunian

The Honey Island Swamp Band combines the talents of some of New Orleans instrumental ringers and lets them open it up for seven tunes that move from rock to roots to even reggae. All the songs are originals from the pens of guitarist Aaron Wilkinson and Chris Mule, both of whom were involved in bands that include Idletime, Eric Lindell, and Kirk Joseph before Hurricane Katrina put them in San Francisco, where they formed this band and started writing.

This first release is an excellent study in roots bar band music. The tunes are easy to dance or sway to with the rhythm section of bassist Sam Price and drummer Garland Paul keeping everything solidly in the pocket. Most of thes ongs feature either Wilkinson’s warm vocals or Mule’s thin voice. Wilkinson’s friendly voice gives his songs a bright sound while Mule’s give his songs an edge and make them sound like Chuck E. Weiss or some other boozy character is giving you advice from the end of the bar. The songs play out in a range of roots sounds including the country bounce of “Nadine” with the rhythms of Wilkinson’s mandolin combining with guest Michelle Lambert’s violin to give the song a rural lilt. The mood stays like that for the slow dance of “CloudHangin’ Over Me” that would be at home at any country dance or Fais Do Do.Mule’s two tunes have a steady rock ’n’ roll backbeat that plays off a trilling mandolin, fluid guitar lines, and punchy saxophone. In all, this is an entertaining and well made first effort that hopefully indicates great music to follow.